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Mr. L.J. McGuinness (Banned Substance) – East Down (F) Tyrella 25th January 2020

The Referrals Committee, Justice Tony Hunt (in the chair) Mr. Anthony Byrne and Justice Leonie Reynolds convened remotely via Zoom on 28th October 2020 to consider a report from Catalonian Antidoping Laboratory, Barcelona, Spain, that a urine sample taken from Mr. L.J. McGuinness (Rider) during in competition testing at East Down (F) Tyrella Point to Point on 25th January 2020 was found to contain Benzoylecgonine (metabolite of cocaine).


Under the Rules of Racing and Irish National Hunt Steeplechase Rules, benzoylecgonine is a banned substance because it acts as a stimulant on the central nervous system with addictive and hallucinogenic properties. It is prohibited in-competition pursuant to the World Anti-Doping Agency Prohibited List International Standard as adopted by the IHRB.


Mr. McGuinness did not request the ‘B’ Sample to be analysed.


Evidence was heard from Dr. Jennifer Pugh (Senior Medical Officer IHRB), Luke McGuinness and the committee also considered correspondence from Mr. Pat Brennan (Counsellor) and Mr. Nigel Slevin (Trainer).


In her evidence, Dr. Pugh explained her regular interactions with Mr. McGuinness since he approached her for support in early 2019. She stated that Mr. McGuinness had engaged in a programme with her and in September he had also availed of the services of Mr. Pat Brennan. However, despite all efforts he once again tested positive for a banned substance. Dr. Pugh added that when Mr. McGuinness was contacted about the adverse analytical finding from January, he accepted the result of the ‘A’ Sample and committed to a programme of rehabilitation. She confirmed that Mr. McGuinness had completed an intense five month residential programme from May to October 2020 in Cuan Mhuire treatment centre and that he had made immense progress since February.


In his evidence, Mr. McGuinness outlined difficulties that he had experienced and accepted that he had failed to make the most of his opportunities since serving his first suspension. He confirmed the details of his rehabilitation programme and acknowledged that he now recognised that he didn’t properly address some unresolved issues following his first suspension. He informed the committee of his current employment with trainers, Gordon Elliott and Nigel Slevin, and the ongoing support he receives from his family and Mr. Brennan. He concluded that his time in Cuan Mhuire had brought an understanding of the importance to remain focussed and continuing on the right path. 


Having considered the evidence, the Referrals Committee accepted the guilty plea and confirmed the breach of Rule 277(i) and reactivated the remaining 18-months of the penalty imposed on Mr. McGuinness in March 2018, and which was suspended in September 2018, to start from 22nd June 2020.


In arriving at a penalty for the adverse analytical on 25th January 2020, they imposed a penalty of six years suspension of his licence, however the panel acknowledged the mitigating factors put forward and also expressed their admiration for Mr. McGuinness in the commitment he had shown during his five-month residential treatment and to turning his career around and therefore stated that the Referrals Committee would consider an application to suspend the six-year penalty from 22nd December 2021 should he comply with strict terms and conditions in the interim, including continuing to regularly engage with Dr. Pugh, Mr. Brennan and maintain his employment as well as carry out any out of competition testing which should be requested.


The case was presented by Ms. Cliodhna Guy, Head of Legal, Licensing and Compliance. Mr. McGuinness was represented by Mr. Eugene Gleeson, SC.

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